Stock Up: Stochasticity Project HiFi+LoFi Mixtape

Are we hopelessly nostalgic? Dub all stars? Aurally obsessed? (Hey, we said “aural”…heed the spelling!) The answer to all of these is yes, however, the decision to name the latest experiment from our more out-there, experimental line of whimsy driven brews Stochasticity Project HiFi+LoFi Mixtape actually takes more of a page from our history than our love of boom boxes and customized cassettes. Fans of Stone (and the Stone Blog) have heard of our Stone Mixtape Ale series of blended beers. These rarities are custom mixes of barrel-aged Stone beers and archived rarities, the likes of which many people have never tasted (e.g., Stone LeVariation Ale, Stone Belgian Brown Ale aged in Red Wine Barrels, Stone Belgian Pale Ale aged in White Wine Barrels). To date, 11 Stone Mixtape Ales have been crafted, but none of them have been bottled. They’re super small-batch, so that’s just the nature of these interesting and often exquisite beasts. To give fans nationwide a taste of our blends, we decided to add a large-scale Mixtape to the Stochasticity Project docket, the result of which comes in the form of Stochasticity Project HiFi+LoFi Mixtape.

In blending multiple unheard-of Stone beers for this endeavor, we could have used some of our archived stock, brewhouse blending specialty ales or barrel-aged brews, but instead, we decided to make something truly first-of-its-kind for us. That led to Brewmaster Mitch Steele pulling from his own archives, as in his inventory of memories comprising decades of touring the world in search of exceptional beer. Many of his fondest reminiscences take place amid the backdrop of traditional English pubs. (If we had a nickel—or perhaps a Euro—for every time he sampled a pilot batch brew and remarked, “This reminds me of a beer I had while at a British pub, we’d have…the math gets fuzzy here, but at least enough to buy a case of Stochasticity Project HiFi+LoFi Mixtape, so we’d be pretty set.) Steele not only delved into his past, but the proud history of U.K. public houses…specifically stock ales.

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A staple of pubs around the 1700s, stock ales are higher-alcohol, malty beers with dark berry-like flavors from English yeast, which are allowed to mature for several months in oak casks. Such maturation would primarily take place at the pub (though some breweries would handle that on their ends). During that process, the beer would typically oxidize to some extent and even take on some slightly sour notes from wild yeast and other microorganisms (Brettanomyces, lactobacillus, pediococcus, etc.). To increase the palatability of fresh beers, which tended to be a bit rough due to kilning techniques that were much more primitive than those employed by today’s brewers, the aged “beer for holding” would be blended with the fresh ale, creating a multi-layered yet highly quaffable brew with more character and intrigue than the many straightforward (but plenty delicious) mild ales, bitters and pale ales that made up the majority of a pubs’ standard offerings.

In creating Stochasticity Project HiFi+LoFi Mixtape, Steele employed some new toys that generated a lot of excitement amongst our brewing team: large oak foudres. While you may have never heard of a foudre, if you’ve ever toured a winery, it’s likely you’ve laid eyes on one. Foudres are large oak vessels that resemble barrels and serve a similar purpose, providing storage space for fermenting beverages. Unlike fermenting in stainless steel tanks, doing so in foudres allows the character of the oak—as well as any wine character absorbed into the wood during its previous uses—to find its way into the finished beverage. In this case, tanic, fruity, earthy flavors from Napa and Sonoma County reds colored our aged, higher alcohol (“HiFi” if you will) stock ale. We held that beer in our brand new foudres for four months before blending it with a fresh, lower alcohol version of the same stock ale exhibiting more of the bitterness from Apollo, Target and Fuggles hops (the “LoFi”) to create the first Stone Mixtape Ale to make it out of our brewery in great enough quantity for a multitude of our fans to enjoy.

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Tasting notes, provided by Brewmaster Mitch Steele

  • Stats: 8.8% ABV
  • Availability: 22-ounce bottles and on draft beginning May 18
  • Hop Bill: FugglesApollo, Target
  • Malt Bill: English Pale, English Mild Ale, English Amber
  • National Distribution: AK, AL, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, HI, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MT, NC, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OR, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, VT, WA and Puerto Rico
  • International Distribution: Australia; Alberta and British Columbia, Canada; Japan; Singapore and United Kingdom
  • Appearance: The beer pours deep amber with a creamy white head and a touch of haze.
  • Aroma: Strong fruity esters with light sherry notes, oak and toasted malt.
  • Taste: Oaky presence is followed by fruity yeast character. The malts shine mid-palate, combining with oak and a light berry fruitiness, followed by a dry, bitter finish.
  • Palate: Full-bodied with a nice bitterness and astringency.
  • Overall: Stone Co-founder Greg Koch has hypothesized for years that brewing the same beer at two different alcohol levels and blending them would provide a different flavor profile than brewing the base beer to a specific alcohol target. And this is true. When compared with beers brewed to lower gravities, fermenting at a higher gravity with a higher resulting alcohol level causes a drastically different mix of esters and other flavor compounds provided by yeast fermentation. Proof comes via this beer, which follows a decidedly English track, using 100% English malts and hops a la traditional stock ales, which I learned a lot about while conducting research for my book IPA: Brewing Techniques, Recipes and the Evolution of India Pale Ale. It was fun to be able to draw on this research as the inspiration for this beer.

Out of this World: Ecliptic / Wicked Weed / Stone Points Unknown IPA

There was a time not so long ago when barrel-aged beers were just starting to trickle out of American craft breweries. At the time, some speculated they might just be a passing fancy. Those naysayers are probably still waiting out similar fads like television and the internet, but we, like many beer enthusiasts, have embraced oak-matured ale as something that is here to stay (thank goodness). For most breweries, barrel-aging involves siphoning an imperial stout or barley wine into a barrel. This is a straightforward method that yields fantastic results (as evidenced by our own barrel-aged creations, such as Fyodor’s Classic, Mikhael’s Odd and Guardian’s Slumber), but when contemplating our latest oak-kissed brew, we wanted to take things a step further to create something truly unique. No, not “unique” in the over-used sense of the word that generifies this definitive term. This beer—a hoppy, decidedly West Coast double IPA blended with a barrel-aged Belgian-style tripel—is truly and literally unique. Allow us to explain as we take you through the intriguing make-up of Ecliptic/Wicked Weed/Stone Points Unknown IPA.

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A Brighter Shade of Pale: Stone Pale Ale 2.0

Another week, another revamped Stone classic. Seven short days after debuting Stone Ruination Double IPA 2.0 to hop heads across the country, we’re ready to introduce a second second-take built to up hop potency and appeal: Stone Pale Ale 2.0. Whereas the former bears a great deal of sensual resemblance to its predecessor, Stone fans will find the latter to be completely reimagined. While hoppier than most beers of its kind, the original Stone Pale Ale possessed the type of copper-toned, caramely malt body associated with traditional British pale ales. In Stone Pale Ale 2.0, Brewmaster Mitch Steele and his crew have peeled back the malt curtain to reveal a golden-hued pale ale that falls in line with current craft beer enthusiasts’ tastes…including our own.

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Our Liquid Poem’s Second Stanza: Stone Ruination Double IPA 2.0

We’ve been (mis-)labeled “arrogant.” We get it. You brew up a beer called Arrogant Bastard Ale and have the audacity to demand that everybody be entitled to the finest beer today’s craftsmen and women can brew, and people form certain opinions. But in reality, we’re not arrogant. What we are is extremely passionate and confident in craft beer and our abilities in that arena. To a person, our Brew Crew works tirelessly to up their technical knowledge and abilities. From keeping up on best practices and emerging techniques for upping beer’s flavor, increasing the efficiency of our brewhouse, stimulating our yeast so they perform as optimally as possible or staying on top of the ever-changing hop crops and the immense influx of new botanical varietals being produced from the Pacific Northwest to Australia and New Zealand, Brewmaster Mitch Steele and his team have their hands (and heads) full. Each day offers a new opportunity to learn and grow, and our beers reflect that—perhaps more now than ever before.

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Stone Spotlight: Imperial Mutt Brown Ale

When it comes to brewing competitions, one can’t help but survey the field of entrants beforehand and speculate on what greatness may emerge from those crafty competitors. We like to think we know the members of the Stone Brew Crew pretty well—the IPA experts, the Belgophiles, the dark beer enthusiasts, the strong ale hoisters. Everybody gravitates towards certain styles and excels at crafting recipes for them. Just when we thought we had everyone pegged, along came our annual in-house brewing competition, the Stone Spotlight Series. This year’s winner, frankly, blew us out of the water. There’s no way we could have seen the blue-ribbon beer coming, especially from the duo that brought it to life, Brewing Supervisor Drew Neldon and Brewer Steve Via. Sit, stay and enjoy the story of Stone Spotlight: Imperial Mutt Brown Ale.

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End of an Era: Stone Ruination IPA

So far, 2015 has seen a flurry of activity here at Stone. This is nothing new. For several years, we’ve been hard at work debuting beers at a rapid and voluminous clip. But this year’s been different. In addition to introducing new brews like Stone Delicious IPA, 2015 Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine – Extra Hoppy and 2015 Stone CHAI-SPICED Imperial Russian Stout, we’ve also broke the sad news that some of our beers are being retired, never to return to production again. First, it was Stone Levitation Amber Ale, followed almost immediately by Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Black IPA. Both were met with much lamenting, but none so much as the next beer to wave bye-bye. It’s no wonder, it’s only the first beer we ever produced beginning 19 years ago: Stone Pale Ale (which will make its valiant return to the suds scene as Stone Pale Ale 2.0 starting in April). Well, the shake-up isn’t over. There’s still one more beer that will be exiting production for eternity and, as hard as it is to say good-bye, the time has come. Spring 2015 will see the last-ever brew session for Stone Ruination IPA.

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Hop Homage: Stone Do These Hops Make My Beer Look Big IPA

We hold many things dear at Stone Brewing Co. High on that list of items held on-high are hops. They are the lush foundation on which some of our greatest successes have been forged. They rest ever-presently at the core of what we do and are largely what have helped us to stand out over the past 18-plus years. We love them every bit as much as you lupulin-craving nuts. So, when we were afforded the opportunity to construct a beer to honor this country’s hop growers, you best believe we took it very seriously!

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A Beer Befitting Its Name: Stone Delicious IPA

India pale ales are our bread-and-butter here at Stone. We love them as much as you do. Similarly, we get an immeasurable amount of satisfaction out of experimenting with new hop combinations to create IPAs with flavor profiles that vary from what we’ve thus far experienced. The arrival of Stone Delicious IPA provides a tangible example of why continual IPA and hop exploration are so fulfilling. With the new Lemondrop varietal as a centerpiece and a massive dry-hop comprised exclusively of lemony El Dorado hops from Washington State, this beer lives up to its name behind a plethora of tart, citrusy notes and a stunning grove-like, lemon tree bouquet, providing a graceful yet in no way subtle one-two punch to the senses. Our newest IPA is unique to our stable of beers in every way…including the fact it just so happens to be our first gluten-reduced offering.

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No Foolin’: Stochasticity Project Master of Disguise

You know what the big problem is with being well known for playing epic April Fool’s Day jokes on the public at large? The public at large starts to expect them, thus rendering such gags nearly impossible to pull off. Still, building up the status as a supremely self-righteous April Fooler was a fun process for the creative minds at Stone. Announcing we would start brewing a lemon-lime “malternative” beverage, a 27.3% ABV extra-strong ale, and a “lo-carb” beer (“Lite™” was trademarked), we’ve used this faux holiday to explore miles of territory we’d never tread in real life…and even some we would.

On April 1, 2010, we told our fans we’d be teaming with our Scottish brewing comrades at BrewDog to craft BrewDog / Stone Luciferin Golden Imperial Stout, a high-alcohol stout coming in at 11.8% alcohol-by-volume with plenty of roasty flavor. There was just one catch—it wouldn’t incorporate any roasted malts and it wouldn’t be brown in color. So, basically, it would be different from every stout on the planet. Nobody with a working knowledge of calendars bought it and, though it was, essentially a joke, our brewmaster, Mitch Steele, filed that idea away and spent the next four years secretly pondering how he’d create a golden-hued stout. And we’re glad he did, because now that imaginary beer has been brewed into brilliant reality. Enter, Stochasticity Project Master of Disguise.

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Hopsploitation: Getting the Most Out of Our Hops

We’re obsessed with hops and all the bitter, fruity, resinous, tropical flavors they can bring to beer. These little buds are amazing in and of themselves, but the work that goes into making those characteristics shine is just as impressive. From the kettle and far beyond, we’re breaking down the magic of getting the most out of our hops and pushing those IBUs ever higher. 2O3A2029 Read More